Rule #1 rule of any survival situation is physical fitness. True fitness provides you the ability to respond to any situation without failing.
Based on our age, health situation, and more, physical fitness is different for each of us.
It is not a win-lose situation. You do not have to choose between being either an extreme athlete or a couch potato. Everybody’s journey is different.
However, the most important thing is that you always continue to work towards your goal, one step at a time.
Any improvement is worth it.
A Bit About Me
In this post, we will be exploring some basic advice and tips on how to get and stay physically fit. First off though, here is a little about me.
When I was 18, I broke my femur in half while snowboarding. It took three years and two surgeries to get through the chronic pain to a place of full healing.
During that time, I became interested in running and threw myself into cardio (running, biking, swimming) and weight training. It also helped that I had gained thirty pounds in college!
I am not an expert, but at my peak, I did get down to 15% body fat and clocked a 25:30 5 kilometer (“5K”) run. I did a great deal of research and really dedicated myself to being physically fit.
Now, after four years of professional life, I am nowhere near that shape, but I have begun again to dedicate myself to becoming physically fit. I will be running another 5K race in April.
There is so much advice out there, much of it contradictory or dedicated to people who are far more intense about their bodies than you or I need to be. This post is just some simple, friendly tips on how those normal people among us can reach a point of physical ability where we feel comfortable about acting in a survival situation.
Key Elements of Fitness:
Before I address the three elements of fitness as I see them, let’s just say a few things out front.
- Anything you do is better than nothing. Do not believe you have to attain an ideal weight or body type in order to become more healthy.
- Each personal fitness journey is different. There is no mold that fits you. Do what is right for your body.
- All exercise should build incrementally. Never feel forced to attain everything all at once. Set a reasonable goal a few months in the future, say running a race, and work towards it.
- Exercise does not need to be planned. You don’t have to hit the gym or put on your running shoes. It can be as simple as, “every time I get to the office, I am going to use the stairs.”
- A “rest day” does not mean a no exercise day. In order to become truly fit, you have to think about incorporating fitness wherever you go and any time of day. Going to the gym three times a week and then vegging in front of the television on your off days will do nothing. Instead, a “rest day” means you dial back your physical activity so your body can heal. Perhaps you do a less high-impact form of cardio. Maybe you swim instead of running, but you never spend an entire day not moving.
If you do not want to injure yourself, especially during an emergency situation, it is essential that you dedicate time to flexibility. There are many different types of stretching, dynamic and static, as well as methods grounded in different cultural and belief systems.
What is important to realize is that by stretching daily as well as after intense workouts, you are not only protecting yourself from injury but also addressing many of the causes of back, hip, and other chronic pain that plague many of us.
The key to a good stretching regimen is to find what works best for you and listen to your body.
What parts of your body hurt the most? Can you touch your toes? Do your shoulders ache? These are all clues you can use to target a stretching regimen to the needs of your body.
Before we address how to stretch, let’s just make a plug for YouTube. There are literally thousands of videos targeted to your areas of fitness needs. Find them, and dedicate 15 minutes every morning to practicing what they teach.
Now, this might be a point of contention for many readers. Please don’t get upset! However, I am going to suggest you practice Yoga.
I am well aware of the theological implications, especially for Christians. I recognize that Yoga’s roots extend back into the spiritual beginnings of eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism and play an important part in the mysticism of enlightenment.
If this makes you uncomfortable, I am going to make my case that a Christian can practice Yoga without fear. Keep it or leave it, entirely up to you.
First, one reason I like Yoga for stretching is because it combines dynamic and static stretches. In twenty minutes, you can loosen up your entire body for the day. Secondly, as you advance, Yoga becomes a form of strength training, especially for the core.
I have one more reason, but first, let’s address the theological implications.
I had a pastor once talk about whether Christians could practice meditation. Both meditation and Yoga have roots in the same traditions, so I think it is a fair analogy.
His point was that by “emptying your mind” you are allowing the forces of evil to invade. Instead, you should meditate through prayer.
Whether you agree with that interpretation or not, I think his suggestion gets to the root of the problem. There is a physical action, in both meditation and Yoga, that can change your physiology and health. There is also a spiritual component as you turn your focus inwards.
I believe it is simply a matter of replacing the action of meditation with the action of prayer.
There is no reason why you cannot stretch and have a conversation with God.
To that end, it is important to find the right videos and/or instructors. Some focus on the religious component and some merely on the physical. Find one that is right for you and make the physical component part of your daily, spiritual actions.
There is one more reason why I find Yoga useful, mindfulness. There is no spiritual or magical meaning to this word at all. Rather, it simply means being aware of how your body, your heart, and your mind feel at any given moment.
Many of us believe the myth that we need experts to tell us everything about our physical and mental health.
Back pain? Visit a doctor and get some opioids, or visit a chiropractor and have a costly readjustment. Of course, there are very legitimate reasons why you would need expert help. I am not degrading those.
I am simply suggesting that you can often pinpoint the reason for that muscle ache and find an appropriate stretch to get you back on your feet, all because you focused on and took ownership of, what your body was telling you.
So far, I have addressed the stretching that should happen every day. It is also important to stretch after every workout. This can be as little as three minutes after a run, stretching your hamstrings, quadriceps, and groin.
The most important thing to remember is, experiment and find the stretches that work for you and target your problem areas.
Disclaimer: Never workout through pain and never try anything you are not comfortable with. If you want to perform specific exercises, consider joining a gym and getting pointers on how to perform them correctly.
No one is suggesting that you need to be ripped. No one is suggesting that you need to be an America Ninja Warrior. If those are attainable goals for you, fantastic. Otherwise, your best strength goals are small and specific to your life.
A core principle of strength training is that you should have a goal for every exercise. I don’t mean goals like these: I want to have big arms, I want six pack abdominal muscles, or I want X amount of body fat.
For our purposes, those goals don’t mean anything. Instead, you should focus on goals like these:
- Can I pick up and carry my child without hurting myself?
- Can I carry all of our essential belongings out of our house in the case of a fire?
- If our car breaks down, am I capable of hiking through hilly terrain carrying a backpack?
- Can I climb stairs?
- Can I sit up without using any assistance?
- Can I prevent myself from falling?
- Are my upper body and grip strength enough to climb up a ravine?
- Here is a crazy one, just for fun. Could you hold onto a family member who has fallen off a cliff, Hollywood style?
These goals translate into specific muscle groups and actions you need to build up and practice. I am reminded of the scene from Ender’s Shadow where Bean practices one-arm pushups so that he can climb through the air vents.
(To be concluded tomorrow, in Part 2.)